‘We’re fighting for the future of the BBC’

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Picket lines are out at BBC sites across the country today as 10,000 workers from all three BBC unions – BECTU, NUJ and Amicus – take action against Director-General Mark Thomson’s plans to axe 4,000 jobs and cut services.

‘We think the BBC will have problems getting any programmes out,’ said chief negotiator for three unions, Luke Crawley of BECTU.

NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear has also appealed to press officers ‘not to co-operate with BBC requests for comments, stories, interviews, to appear as guests, provide pictures etc.’ during the strike action.

Dear added: ‘BBC staff are of course angry at plans to axe 19 per cent of staff but they are also fighting for the future of the BBC.’

The Today Programme and Newsnight will be among the radio and TV news programmes cancelled, with Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman saying he will not cross picket lines.

All other live programming will be cancelled, including Radio 5 Live, BBC 4 and regional programmes.

Even pre-recorded programmes such as EastEnders will disrupted.

Pickets have been out across the country since 4.30am, and there will be a picket of the Chelsea Flower Show this morning.

Massive support has been flooding in for the strike, which Crawley warned Thompson in an email on Saturday ‘will be the best-supported strike in the BBC’s history because the staff believe that the management have got it dead wrong’.

Record numbers of BBC staff have joined the unions on the eve of the strike.

More than 300 BBC employees joined Bectu last week, and 500 joined the NUJ.

BECTU assistant general secretary Gerry Morrissey, said: ‘We have signed 1,360 new members since Mark Thompson announced job cuts in March.’

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said last week the TUC supports the BBC unions’ defence of jobs and services.

Letters flooded in from across the UK and around the world to the NUJ head office last week backing the BBC strikers.

Typical was a letter from Australia’s Media Alliance expressed solidarity with ‘our BBC colleagues in their fight for jobs and social justice.

‘Such a dramatic downsizing in staff will have irreversible repercussions to the BBC’s long time viability to produce quality drama and ability to broadcast independent quality journalism . . .’

In a letter to the NUJ, London’s LBC radio station said: ‘In sympathy with the plight of colleagues and friends at the BBC, LBC will be supporting those picketing job losses at the BBC.

‘We don’t wish to take sides in this dispute, we just wanted to show support and solidarity for the colleagues and friends whose jobs are in jeopardy.’

The Irish Executive Council of the NUJ has urged journalists, trade unionists, politicians and leaders of civic society in Ireland to support today’s strike, as BBC workers in Dublin, Belfast and Derry take part in today’s stoppage.

The strike will last for 24 hours until midnight tonight. It will be repeated on 31st May and 1st June if there is no movement from the BBC management.